28 November 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Wadjda (2012)


Wadjda (2012, Haifaa Al-Mansour) is exactly what you expect when watching a well made movie telling you tales about cultures very different from the one you live in: gives you a general picture of a society while stating very clearly that it's by no means completely homogeneous. Very well. And when such a movie come from the first ever Saudi-Arabian female movie director, your feminist obligation is to go and watch!

The premise is very simple and compelling: What happens when a girl that's already struggling with quite restrictive cultural norms of her society gets a strong urge to trespass even more? Or, in other words, what happens when Wadjda, a young Saudi-Arabian girl, wants a bicycle?

So get the movie, gather all the children (and not so children) you care about and watch Wadjda with them. And if you live in a context different of that of Wadjda be prepared to answer many questions. Why is everybody against her having a bicycle? Why are all the women covering themselves in black when leaving their own spaces? Why are girls not to be friends with boys? Why can men have several wives (and abandon their wives if they are unable to give them male children)? Why are girls followed very closely by their teachers to make sure they behave in a certain way? Why girls suspected of a lesbian relationship publicly shamed? And so on... Most importantly, what is likely to happen with Wadjda when she gets older? What kind of life is she likely to lead?

It may also help to ask those questions to yourself too. Just to realize what are the things that you most likely take for granted in life.

21 November 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Million Dollar Baby (2004)


This one might be too harsh to be inspirational. But you will have to judge that on your own. Million Dollar Baby (2004, Clint Eastwood) is a sports movie. A boxing movie. About hurt and suffering people.

As sports movie it goes pretty much as expected: we have a heroine who through hard work - mental and physical - gets to prove everybody how they were wrong about her abilities and character. Inspirational so far.

Even more, you get a story about several lives so empty and broken that the fight and success in the ring is the only way she perceives that allows self-realization and freedom. Then again, it's still brutal (and dangerous) fighting in men's world with other women... but who are we to question the dreams of well informed adults?

+ A movie where a woman in a central role is neither expect or made look conventionally pretty at any moment. Also, the sexist structures of the society (and sports!) are laid very bare.

+ The extremely multifaceted and talented Hilary Swank. Breathtaking!

- If you are sensitive to violence and not that into people having fist fights for fun (and money), the whole boxing context might result very crude and overwhelming.

14 November 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: I'ts Complicated (2009)


This is one to relax and take it easy, pros and cons will follow... I bring you It's Complicated (2009, Nancy Meyers). It may be actually aimed to your mom (or even grandmom) by the studio bosses, but what do they know about feminist movies? Clue: not much. So here I am, doing their work...

+ Nancy is a female writer and director that has made it big big big in Hollywood. With romantic comedies mostly, that's true, some ore feminist than others but still very big. I have a special weakness for female directors, what can I do?

+ Romantic comedy about people in their 50s or 60s... having romantic affairs and sex, apart from active professional and otherwise social lives. No as daring as Harold and Maude (1971) - hey, this is the big Hollywood Christmas fun movie for women (I'm sure that's how the marketers categorize this movie) after all - but still very valid image of people having fun and enjoying their sexualities.

+ Despite quite obvious love triangle, the ending is - spoiler! - not as you would expect. Neither life or movie ends with a happily ever after i.e. girls gets the boy she wants most. Life is not that easy. And the heroine is pretty OK as she is.

+ Meryl Streep. Who else? I'm deeply and passionately in love with her work, and this is a very nice fun bit.

- Jane, the central heroine, in this movie is a somewhat very softened example of a woman of career. Se has a cake shop that she does not spend her days in. Her hobby after a working day is to cook abundantly and extravagantly to her children, ex-husband, architect, whomever... her life story implies studying the fine art of French cooking abroad but with little consequences apart from croissants (think about Julia Child but much more demure).

- The families depicted live in a fantasy land of material abundance and their worries are pastries and house refurbishment into something even more amazing, etc. No worries about business, salaries, college funds for all the kids, etc. A Christmas fantasy movie indeed.

To conclude: watch this with your mom, aunties, grandmother... gonna be fun!

07 November 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Hanna (2011)


Hold on to your chairs... because here you have a quite classical thriller centered around a girl. Hanna (2011) is a weird story, no doubt. And I'm perfectly fine with debating - as in the case of Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) - if being raised in a way that's alternative to the great majority and puts children in harms way is child abuse. Probably it is. But then again, raising a child on just Cartoon Network and candy could be considered very limiting and severely suboptimal too. Also, Hanna is 16 instead of 6-year-old Hushpuppy. Evolving capacities, people, evolving capacities. And a rather sci-fi narrative. Let's focus on the particular piece of fiction then.

It's eerie to watch it. Especially if you are sensitive to cinematographic violence. And it makes you question social conventions around the way we socialize our children, teaching them what's acceptable and what's not. Completely arbitrary sets of values, of course.

Also, by showing a quite rare narrative (Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita (1990) and Léon: The Professional (1994) come quite close, though), forces you to realize how internalized in this culture are the idea that violence is something that only adult men do. It's weird and doesn't feel right to see the dreamy Saoirse Ronan killing animals and people. It takes a movie like this to get hit by the hard truth that the violence is heavily gendered. Culturally obvious, but tricky still.

A little bonus just for you: the haunting Hanna's theme. You are welcome!